The man who lost his leg and gained a floor lamp

September 1st, 2014

NRC Reader reports [in Dutch, auto-translated here into English]:

I Wanted a Floor Lamp

The right leg of Leo Bonten broke after a stupid accident. There was an infection, it was off. But Leo wanted to keep his leg per se. To make a lamp out of it.

That would be the final steps of his right leg thereof Leo Bonten was unaware. That in his living room a lamp containing his right leg would be two years later was at the time not at all through him….

Who is the owner of an amputated limb? That is legally a gray area. An amputated body part is officially “specific hospital” and is taken to a processing plant. Any other use than throw falls under the Law on Medical Treatment Agreement. It says that human tissue for research should be there if the patient does not object used, but also implies that if the patient consents almost anything may happen to the body.

Leo filed a request at the Erasmus MC in Rotterdam to get after the surgery. Leg back They were not immediately convinced of the plan. There were practical objections.

Here are photos (by Stefanie Gratz, for NRC Reader) of the lamp, and of its owner, and of the doctor:




Frank van de Goot is the pathologist who preserved the leg. Willem Schaperkotter designed the lamp.

Thanks to Dr. Erwin Kompanje for bringing this to our attention. Dr. Kompanje will discuss the ethics of this, on the television program Studio Erasmus, on September 9. The man who made the lamp will also be on that program.

BONUS: An interview with Leo Bonten, about his lamp:

BONUS: News report saying a California boy wanted to have his amputated leg made into a lava lamp.

The ‘Infant Mannequin’ (new patent)

September 1st, 2014

“Babies capture the hearts and minds of those that surround them during their stages of development, but grow so quickly that their family may not have time to fully enjoy these times.”

A possible solution to this conundrum is presented in an invention which has just received a US patent (Aug 2014). The patent describes a robotic ‘Infant Mannequin’ which comprises :


“ [...] an infant head form with two eye members, a nose member, a mouth aperture having two lips, and a head form having a facial image of a specific human infant. The system comprises an infant body form, a skeletal structure, a muscular structure, a skin covering, and a hair receptacle system located on the head form. The system comprises an abdomen compression diaphragm located underneath the skin covering.”

The patent-document follows convention by listing the ‘claims’ of the invention – in other words the aspects which are new and which differentiate it from previous ‘prior art’. In this case there are just two claims, but they are quite comprehensive, and, unusually perhaps, are presented in the form of two (rather long) sentences, which for readers’ convenience, we reproduce below . . .

Click to continue reading “The ‘Infant Mannequin’ (new patent)”

David Liptrot joins the Luxuriant Facial Hair Club for Scientists (LFHCfS)

August 31st, 2014

David Liptrot has joined the Luxuriant Facial Hair Club for Scientists (LFHCfS). He says:

I’m just finishing my PhD in Organometallic Chemistry at the University of Bath. After much urging from my colleagues, I have finally decided to humbly apply for acceptance amongst my hirsute scientific peers. Working in an organometallics lab with many things that like to spontaneously burst into flame, I remain amazed at my beard’s persistence, and have taken to shaving a firebreak into the sides of my head for safety.

I hope this is sufficient — I’m entering the Great British Beard Championships in 2 weeks time, and would hope I would be able to be accepted in time to fly the flag for the LFHCfS.

David Liptrot, LFHCfS
Graduate student, Organometallic Chemistry
University of Bath
Bath, UK

This Is Improbable Too, in the Boston Globe

August 31st, 2014

Kate Tuttle wrote a nice article on “the story behind the new book”This Is Improbable Too — in today’s Boston Globe. Tuttle mentions that I (the author of the book), have been at this kind of thing for a while:

Abrahams has been publishing his oddball discoveries for a quarter-century now, but his passion is nearly lifelong. “I discovered newspapers when I was really small,” he says. His hometown paper would fill extra column space with “oddball news — one I remember vividly was ‘Man Flushes Toilet, House Explodes’ — I used to cut them out and paste them into a scrapbook.”

The book has gotten nice reviews in USA Today, and in the Wall Street Journal. And I managed, without trying or wanting to, to shock Bob Edwards near the end of our interview on The Bob Edwards show.

This Friday, September 5, I and several members of the Ig Nobel gang (Robin Abrahams, Gary Dryfoos, Melissa FranklinCorky White) will do brief dramatic readings from studies that I wrote about in the book. That happens at Harvard Book Store, in Cambridge at 7 p.m. Come join us!

You can get the book from Harvard Bookstore, as well as at most other good bookstores, and also from Amazon and the other mysterious online booksellers.


George Bush explains the disappearance of knickers

August 31st, 2014

Young George Bush explained the disappearance of knickers, in this scholarly study in 1960:

On the disappearance of knickers: Hypotheses for the functional analysis of the psychology of clothing.” George Bush and Perry London, Journal of Social Psychology, vol. 51, no. 2, 1960, pp. 359-366. The paper begins:

“There are those of us for whom the rustling sound of corduroy has for many years been associated with memories of the almost indestructible kneelength trousers of our childhood. These memories, though not always pleasant…”


BONUS (possibly unrelated): A particular effect of the laundering of knickers